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10 Feb 2003 : Column 732—continued

Mr. Quentin Davies: As I have already warned the hon. Lady, we intend to table an amendment on this issue in Committee, if the Bill is given a Second Reading. Does she recognise that, far from creating problems for the PSNI, this would save a lot of money? At present, not only are people being frustrated by having to re-apply and go through the same procedures many times, but it is costing public money for them to do so.

Jane Kennedy: Given what the hon. Gentleman has said, I look forward to debating the issue with him in greater detail in Committee. I will not answer his question now; I shall consider it so that I can give a fuller response at that time.

The right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) said in an intervention that recruitment was dependent on equal participation and encouragement from political leaders. That is very much the point that we were making on intimidation. Paragraph 15.2 of the Patten report states:

in Northern Ireland—

The report goes on to detail school teachers, priests, bishops, sports authorities and others, all of whom it says

It is time for all members of civil society in Northern Ireland to embrace that recommendation.

Rev. Ian Paisley: It has been announced that there has been a bombing tonight in Enniskillen. Does the Minister know anything further about casualties?

Jane Kennedy: All I know about the incident to which the hon. Gentleman refers is that a small explosive device has gone off at the town hall in Enniskillen, causing superficial damage. The area had been evacuated and no injuries resulted from the explosion. Hon. Members may also wish to know that a similar warning was received in Omagh, but no device was found. The incident to which the hon. Gentleman has

10 Feb 2003 : Column 733

drawn our attention simply serves to illustrate the environment in which we are working as we seek to resolve these important issues in Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) also raised the issue of the text for consideration, as did a number of other Members. He wished to discuss it in detail and to test our thinking on laying the text in public in the way we did. The Government published various commitments relating to policing in the revised implementation plan of August 2001, which arose from the talks at Weston Park. These included commitments to consider, as part of a review, the continued need for the bar on all ex-prisoners ever serving on a district policing partnership, and the powers of the Belfast sub-groups. The consideration covered the question of whether the time was yet right to make any changes, and what changes might be appropriate when such a time came. I hope to deal with the concerns expressed by a number of hon. Members on this issue.

Several hon. Members queried whether the time was right. Having given a great deal of thought to the agreement to consider these matters, we made it clear what we would propose to do. However, our conclusion was that the time was not yet right to introduce changes in these areas. In particular, the removal of the disqualification of ex-prisoners could, in our view, happen only in the context of acts of completion as envisaged by the Prime Minister in his speech in Belfast last October. However, we believed that it would be helpful to set out how we would intend to deal with the issues, should we, at some point in the future, conclude that the time was right to legislate on them. That is why we published the separate text in a spirit of openness, wishing to dispel some of the distrust that clearly exists towards the acts of the Government.

The hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) said that these provisions were in the Bill, but they are not. They are for separate consideration. Ex-prisoners can already serve on DPPs as political members if they have been elected as a local councillor. The text for consideration would bring the rules for independent members of DPPs into line with those for political members. This issue is not just about terrorist ex-prisoners; it covers all those who have served a custodial sentence at any point in their lives.

Why a five-year quarantine period? What was the thinking behind making that recommendation as a separate text for consideration? Our thinking was that it would bring independent members into line with district councillors. It is the triple-lock mechanism that was mentioned earlier. As the text shows, the provisions are modelled on those of the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Act 1989. However, the House may wish to know that, in England and Wales, people are disqualified from membership of a police authority if, among other reasons, they have been convicted within the previous five years of a criminal offence and had a custodial sentence imposed. In considering this matter, I took an interest in what applied elsewhere in the UK.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies), in an incisive and deeply thoughtful first contribution to a debate on Northern Ireland, served notice that we should look forward to

10 Feb 2003 : Column 734

him brightening our counsels in future. The hon. Member for North Antrim was one of those who dismissed contributions such as that made by my hon. Friend, saying that my hon. Friend did not understand the nature of Irish republicanism because only those who had lived in Northern Ireland and experienced it could do so. I dispute that. I would very much like to debate it at length with the hon. Gentleman, perhaps in a more social setting. Every hon. Member has constituents who could be affected by the issues that we are dealing with today.

A number of hon. Members asked when Sinn Fein would join the Policing Board. That will be a matter for Sinn Fein, but I hope that it will be soon. Will we let the party on the Policing Board now? That is a serious question and it deserves a serious answer. At the moment, there are no vacancies on the board. All 19 members are appointed by the Secretary of State under direct rule. However, if acts of completion were to occur, the circumstances would be created in which the Government would hope to be able to restore devolution.

Mr. Quentin Davies: The Minister refers to acts of completion occurring. She does not say what those are. Will she be absolutely clear that what is required is nothing less than the completion of decommissioning and disbandment?

Jane Kennedy: I could not put it more clearly than the Prime Minister himself, who has said it not only in his speech in October but here on the Floor of the House—as have my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office.

This is not about bartering and deals. When we published the text for consideration, the Government made it clear that the time was not right to introduce changes such as those that we are discussing today. However, as the editorial in the Belfast Telegraph said the following day, when the guns are silenced, all things are possible.

If the current situation changes and we find ourselves in a different set of circumstances where acts of completion are a reality, the environment will be different. In those circumstances and only in those circumstances, the changes that are set out in the text for consideration would be justified. This is not about deals or bartering; it is about looking to the future and being prepared to imagine new possibilities that could arise if we saw an end to terrorism in Northern Ireland.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. McCabe) complained that the time scale was too short to enable effective pre-legislative scrutiny to take place. I concede that the timetable is not ideal. However, I want to respond to the Select Committee's criticism about the Northern Ireland Office's lack of a consultation period for the Bill. The Government note the criticism about the speed involved but, as the Committee recognised, we were under pressure to introduce the Bill as soon as possible to give it the opportunity of receiving Royal Assent before the start of the campaign for the Assembly elections in May.

Even in the time available to me, I have not had the opportunity to respond to everyone. I hope that I shall have the opportunity to do so in Standing Committee. I look forward to that.

10 Feb 2003 : Column 735

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 334, Noes 11.

Division No. 86
[9. 59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barrett, John
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, rh A. J.
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bruce, Malcolm
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burnham, Andy
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Carmichael, Alistair
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Darling, rh Alistair
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Follett, Barbara
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Foulkes, rh George
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Margaret
Holmes, Paul
Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, rh Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
MacDougall, John
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
MacShane, Denis
McWalter, Tony
Mahmood, Khalid
Mallaber, Judy
Mallon, Seamus
Mandelson, rh Peter
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, rh Michael
Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Alan
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Morris, rh Estelle
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Diana
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Rendel, David
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheridan, Jim
Short, rh Clare
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Soley, Clive
Spellar, rh John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thurso, John
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watts, David
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Winnick, David
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Fraser Kemp and
Mr. Jim Murphy


Donaldson, Jeffrey M.
Hermon, Lady
Paisley, Rev. Ian
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Viggers, Peter
Wilkinson, John
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Nigel Dodds and
David Burnside

Question accordingly agreed to.

10 Feb 2003 : Column 737


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Orders [28 June 2001 and 29 October 2002],

10 Feb 2003 : Column 738

Question agreed to.

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